If you have health insurance through your employer there is a very good chance that you also have access to a dental plan. According to an article on businessinsurance.com dated June 9, 2010 80% of employees with health insurance coverage also have dental. But 70% of consumers that buy their own health insurance do not have dental coverage. And just as dental insurance is the number one requested benefit among employees, many individual consumers are actively looking for a good dental insurance plan.
And that brings us to the key question: how do you know if a dental plan is a good buy? In today’s marketplace there are a wide variety of dental plans available. The costs for the various dental plans are range from amazingly inexpensive to too expensive to make any sense. Follow these tips and you will get a dental insurance plan that actually makes sense.
Discount Dental Plans: These are generally the least expensive in terms of premium but can turn out to be the most expensive in terms of benefits. Before buying a discount dental plan, make sure that there are a large enough number of providers in your geographic area. Even more important make sure that your dentist is one of them. If you dentist is not one of the participating dentists are you willing to change dentists? You will also want to get a list of the discount for cleanings and exams since this is the area of a dental plan that gets the most use.
HMO/PPO Dental: These dental insurance plans offer a network of participating dentists who have agreed to accept the insurance company’s payment for specific services. While the coverage is generally excellent you will have to use one of the participating dentists so just like the discount plans you want to make sure that you dentist is on the network or at least that there is strong network in your area. The PPO dental insurance plan will provide reduced benefits for going out of network. Before buying this type of insurance you should know whether you will generally be out of network and what those benefits are.
Indemnity Dental: This is the most popular form of dental insurance because it allows you to go to any dentist. These plans pay benefits based on what is reasonable and customary for your area. If your dentist charges more than the insurance company considers reasonable you will have to pay the difference. As a general rule this difference is not going to be a lot of money since 80% or 90% of the dentists will fall into this category.
Is it a good buy?
If you are going to buy dental insurance the first question to ask yourself is this: do I get my teeth cleaned twice per year? If not will I make a commitment to get my teeth cleaned twice per year? If your answer to these questions is “no” you should not buy dental insurance. If your answer is “yes” then dental insurance is probably a good buy. As of October 2011 a cleaning at my dentist costs $118. A set of bitewing x-rays once per year costs $60. Since I get my teeth cleaned twice per year I am going to spend $296. As a general rule if you get back 75% of your annual premium in cleanings and exams then dental insurance is good buy. In this example if your dental insurance cost was $390 or less it would be a good buy. Since your dentist is likely to increase his fees each year you can expect that your dental premium will increase as well. If your use each year equals 75% of the premium or better it pays to keep your plan.
Look for a plan that provides 100% coverage for preventative and diagnostic care without an annual deductible. You will also want a plan that provides coverage for fillings, extractions and larger expenses such as crowns and root canals. In my opinion a plan with a graded benefit is better than a plan with a waiting period for these additional benefits since it provides immediate coverage and you never know what can happen. If you are likely to recoup 75% of your investment with routine cleanings and exams than any benefit above that makes the plan even better financially.